Monday, January 26, 2015

No Practical Advice Whatsoever

This exchange occurred on FB. It's not the first time I've heard this, and it probably won't be the last.

Reader: I've purchased your book, I've read, but I didn’t understand the purpose of your book, there is no practical advise whatsoever [sic] ...

JJ: Like Gopi Krishna’s Kundalini: The Evolutionary Energy in Man, Deciphering the Golden Flower One Secret at a Time is a narrative memoir. These types of books rarely offer “practical advice;” they’re not supposed to. Why?

Narrative memoir by JJ Semple

In the case of kundalini, each experience is so different, both as to how the experience is triggered and how it affects the individual in whom it is triggered. How can one offer substantive practical advice without knowing the circumstances of a case? Would you want a lawyer to offer generalities in a divorce case? Or a hitting coach to say, "Get up there and swing away."?

That’s why most books on kundalini triggers and effects, that are not memoirs, offer information laced with “received wisdom.” In fact, offering specific advice can be dangerous and misleading for neophytes that are completely in the dark. It’s much safer to generalize. Yet, generalities don’t satisfy the reader who’s looking for more.

On the other hand, in order to offer “practical advice” in each case, a separate book would have to be custom-written for each individual. And that’s not about to happen. In your case, without knowing anything about you or your situation, even to the point of whether you’ve had a kundalini experience, how it was triggered or how it affected you, I’m not qualified to comment or advise, in a book or in person. It would be presumptuous. 

Getting Inspiration From a Book
So why do authors write memoirs, or narrative stories about heros/heroines? What purpose do they serve? In a word, their purpose is “Identification,” a universally accepted literary device. The reader, or viewer in the case of a book, play, or movie, identifies with the protagonist’s struggle. If it weren’t for the identification factor, many works of art would not exist. Works like, “The Graduate,” “Portrait of a Lady,” “Rocky,” “Hamlet,” “A Moveable Feast,” “Anna Karenina.” The creator is saying, “This is the way it happened to me, or to him or her. Do you see something in this story that resonates for you?” Even the Christian Bible is based on identification: for millions, Jesus is the ultimate object of identification.

One of the Most Identified Events in History

Memoirs stimulate readers to feel good about themselves: either by looking down on the protagonist (there but for the grace of God go I) or looking up to him/her (when I grow up, I’m going to pattern my life on hers). Some people cannot relate to characters in a book, no matter how noble or how degraded; their brains are not wired that way. They objectify situations. Memoirs put you in the moment; how-to books place you at 20,000 feet. If you aren't moved by great stories and great characters — if you don't relate to their struggle — you'd better stick to how-to books.

Many readers of Deciphering the Golden Flower One Secret at a Time, who enjoyed the narrative (see Amazon reviews), tell me they were also able to “read between the lines” and extract useful information that they then applied to their own search for self-knowledge, namely:

  • Meditation is the best way to permanently activate kundalini
  • Kundalini is a biological phenomenon, not a religious one
  • Kundalini repurposes sexual energy, into "psychic fuel"
  • The kundalini activation experience takes place in a moment, learning to live with the effects takes years
  • Kundalini has autonomic self-healing properties
  • Kundalini rejuvenates the body, retards the aging process
  • Kundalini curbs addictive tendencies
  • Kundalini removes self-destructive tendencies
  • Kundalini is not for everyone
As for specific practical advice, judging from its positive reviews, readers tell me that my newest book, The Biology of Consciousness: Case Studies in Kundalini offers an objective, topical survey of the issues surrounding kundalini. Whether this book would be more to your liking remains for you to decide.

Jean-Luc Godard's muse
Anna Karina
In the end, most seekers discover that the road to self-knowledge is quite lonely. No matter how many books read, ashrams visited, retreats attended, questions asked and answered, the bulk of the work — like that of a scientist — is accomplished under laborious conditions by the solitary seeker him or herself.

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